The First Man on the Moon
This flash first appeared in Spelk Magazine in April 2018.
Tom came up with the idea the summer he decided he’d be a filmmaker. He was fourteen then and so far his future professions had been taxi driver, reporter, tennis player, plumber.
Maybe it was by reflex, but all I ever dreamt of was becoming a manager. I’d always been the more practical of the two.
“I tell you, it will be a hit,” my brother insisted.
“I don’t get it,” I replied, bouncing my ball against the wall.
“There was this time when Orson Welles went live on radio, back in the Thirties. It was in one of dad’s magazines,” he explained. “Welles was reading this piece like he was a newscaster. And it was about aliens having just landed in the United States.”
I looked at him, alarmed.
“People started seeing aliens in the streets. They were calling the radio, from all over.”
“Was it true?”
“Of course not, but people believe whatever you tell them. Just tell them the right way. Now this was on the radio, but try to imagine doing it on television. That’s even more powerful,” he said. “That’s what I’ll do. I’ll go to Iceland, wear an astronaut suit, pretend I’m on the moon. Imagine this: the first man to set foot on the moon.” He beamed.
All throughout the summer, Tom spoke of Iceland. He walked to the library every day, borrowing books. He studied the photos, copied the maps, hung them on the wall. He showed me the itinerary. He even wrote a script. I was no expert, but it sounded good.
Then the summer was over. We went back to school. He decided he’d become a biologist. Then a lawyer. A teacher. A nurse. Then our dad died and all Tom could do was take over the family hardware store.
Years later. Summer of 1969. I was home for the holidays. We were at a neighbour’s house. We didn’t own a television yet. There were three or four families crammed into the sitting room. My grandmother was there too, shaking her head, muttering she’d seen it all.
I looked at my brother. I didn’t care about the television, or the moon. I was wondering if he still remembered about Iceland. He watched the programme, baffled. Then as we left he whispered:
“Perhaps, they just stole my idea.”
I smiled, relieved.
“I still want to go,” he said.
“To the moon?”
Since then, every Christmas we planned to go. Every summer something came up. And now here I am, in the place he chose. Tom’s yellowed notes left in a suitcase under his bed at the nursing home. His only possession, passed on to me and now tucked in the backpack I borrowed from my granddaughter. His maps are folded in my jacket. I’m looking at the camera, squinting my eyes against the wind. Wondering if he can see me, from where he’s now.
I smile, and count to three.